Dan looked for the man and saw that he was nothing but a dot. Dan did the only thing he could think to do; he ran because he had to find Alice. The man was so far in the distance that Dan had a hope of getting away. The man’s long stride could only take him so far. Dan could make it through the bridges to safety.
Dan’s body screamed for rest but he ignored it. His muscles ached and his tired limbs were hard to ignore but he used all he had to sprint away from his tormenter. Dan followed the since to the bridge that they had walked across while Dan was unconscious. He had no trouble finding it and running past it. Nothing could make Dan slow. He hit the ground on the other side and he hit it running! His body begged for rest but he could not let himself stop until Alice was found safe.
Dan was getting used to the feel of the bridges. He found that each bridge had its own feel that told him where it leads to. Hattie and the Master had called each world and Dan, not knowing any other method, copied them. Dan saw the different worlds in a definite order but he could not explain how. The bridges did not line up like a straight line. Still, Dan knew the order the worlds did go in and he knew what to call each.
He knew that he had to keep running to get to his home world; to the world where Alice and his mother were now traveling to the Forest Spirit’s pool. He had to make sure that they were okay and warn them that trouble was on the way. They were in world 4 and he was in world 9 now. The deep voiced man was in world 7 but Dan was sure that the man was on his way here now and he knew that he needed to move on as quickly as possible.
Dan tried to ignore the world around him and just follow the feel of the bridge. He was not really sure where he was but he did see that the abandoned buildings were behind him. The people in the manicured lawns in front of Dan all gave him weird looks. Dan did not stop or even slow to think about why they all looked at him that way. He just needed to keep moving.
A girl half Dan’s age ran up beside him. “You need to go to a hospital. You can stop running and we’ll help you.” The girl said all of these things in earnest but Dan did not understand half of the words she said.
“I just need to get home,” Dan told her breathlessly, hoping she would leave him alone.
“I’ll let you call your parents if you let my mom take you to the hospital.”
Dan shook his head and kept running. The girl ran with him for a few blocks but stopped after that. He was sure that he looked a mess but he had not thought that anyone would stop him. Dan felt the pain move up his body with each step but he pushed everything away with thoughts of Alice and worry for her. With this burst of energy, he sprinted into the house and out to the backyard through the bridge.
Dan found himself back in world 4, back in his own world. The Elk Guild was still over a day’s hard run away but felt like he was home. Dan looked around him in the peaceful forest and he felt such relief. Dan could not stop himself from falling to his knees and giving into his tired body’s needs. Blackness filled his vision and he slept.
Consciousness returned to Dan hours later when the sun was no longer in the sky. Dan jumped to his feet thinking, “Alice! I have to get to her before anyone else does!”
He took off running towards the Elk Guild. Dan had been running hard towards the bridges before but this sprint made all the earlier ones look like walks in the park. Desperation forced Dan to use every ounce of strength left in his body to get to Alice.
Dan was not sure if he should be disappointed to find that the Guild was already on their way to the pool of the Forest Spirit or not. He was glad that Alice was on her way to safety but he was annoyed that he had to run for miles yet before he could warn her. Dan’s body begged him to stop and rest but his over-active mind pictured disaster after disaster. He needed to see that Alice was safe before his mind would allow him to rest.
Dan continued to run. He only stopped when exhaustion took over but even then, he tried to only rest for a few hours and then get moving again. He had done some quick first aid on his ribs and shoulder and the bandages and slings made running easier for him. Dan finally caught up with the Elk Guild when they were entering the Forest Spirit’s forests. The pools where the Forest Spirit actually lives were in the center of the woods.
Dan felt hope and excitement for the first time in days. Dan climbed to a tall hill overlooking the party. He wanted to look for Alice and go straight to her instead of asking ten or more Elks where she was. He was sure that it would be quicker if he just found her on his own. With this thought in mind, Dan took a close look at the traveling party. Dan saw his mother and Alice was next to her, riding on Ebon, the Guild elder. Dan smiled and turned to run down and meet them. He turned to ran right into the person he most wanted to avoid: the deep voiced man who had tormented him for days!